Situated in a valley at the base of the Sperrin Mountains, Baronscourt estate, all 15,000 acres of it, is something of a sporting paradise.
Combine this with a main house as majestic on the outside as it is within and you’ve pretty much met the needs of any avid sportsman.
Saddled up and ready to go after breakfast, I made my way along the remaining eight miles from my hotel to the estate.
The scenery just got better and better as I weaved through the country lanes.
I was introduced to the rest of the guns before grabbing an opportunity to speak with Jamie about the shoot as everyone finished their breakfast.
This includes retaining, as best as possible, our own bloodline of pheasant.
Sammy Pollock, our head-keeper, is assisted by his son, Stephen, and daughter, Jeanette, as well as a wealth of other locals who help on shoot days.
In order to protect our stocks we don’t overshoot the land, and each season we will establish how many shoot days we should have so as not to upset this balance.
The shoot is mainly run for the family but we feel in order to make full use of the land, and also generate extra income to pump back into the shoot, it is wise to let out days.
We have one group of guns that come here six times a year for walked-up game shooting.
Conservation is also very much to the fore.
Every decision is carefully thought out in terms of the impact it will have and the benefits that can be drawn from it.
All of Baroncourt’s days are managed by Jamie - a personal and knowledgeable touch which ensures everything runs smoothly.
“We are very lucky to have a number of woodcock on the estate and have devised drives whereby the guns and beaters can actually walk together along custom-made tracks cut through coniferous woods in pursuit of this sporting bird,” said Jamie.
A call to the By-turn, the first drive, marked the end of our conversation, and it was then to the gun-bus - a fine specimen adorned on the inside with framed photographs of previous shoots and family members from years gone by.
I found myself behind Lord Iveagh from the Elveden estate.
Resplendent in his family’s Guinness tie, it wasn’t long before he was sampling some of Baronscourt’s best.
They came in a steady trickle and the drive lasted long enough for each gun to get a good share of the sport.
The team tucked in to sausage rolls, soup and a nip of sloe gin around the warmth of a log fire.
Once suitably fortified it was on to the Spinney.
Sure enough, high bird after high bird powered up over the guns and with the bright sun burning in the sky, only a few were deterred from lifting to a sporting height.
Not only was it a great way to end the morning’s game shooting, it provided uninterrupted sport as the birds lifted in a frenzy of flight.
The guns enjoyed a good half an hour of sport and bagged 110 head.
“I started off in the estate’s forestry department before a position came up to join the shoot.
I had always had an interest in game shooting so to become an under-keeper was a chance that I really wanted to take.
Then I was made head-keeper 19 years ago and have been so ever since.” Son and daughter Stephen and Jeanette joined Sammy when they left school.
And Sammy even has his other son, David, and David’s son, Adam, helping out on shoot days too.
Take the woodcock for example, we have created special game shooting conditions for them that hasn’t been detrimental to the woodland.
I think we’ve got it just about right here.
We’ve been working on it for the past 20-odd years and everything seems to be going well.”
“Making good use of game is paramount on the estate,” said Jamie.
The estate also has a EU approved game processing facility, one of only two in Northern Ireland, where we can prepare oven-ready birds.
Some of this produce makes its way to our cookery school at Belle Isle.”
With the stunning house in the background, the guns saw good birds before retiring for a cup of tea, and for those staying the night, something a little bit stronger.
For more information on game shooting at Baronscourt click here.
First published in June, 2011.